Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Possible Solution To The Iranian Crisis

The Key To Success
The New York Times is reporting that Iran will continue preparing uranium for enrichment despite a recent pledge to stop the activity. It is said that the Iranians are using a loophole in the agreement to continue producing these substances. The United States government has become increasingly concerned that the Iranians are enriching uranium for the purpose of constructing nuclear weapons. The possession of nuclear weapons by an Iranian regime such as the one currently in power would be viewed by many as a direct threat to the stability of the region.

At times, The United Nations has threatened the mullahs in Tehran with sanctions if they do not cease their nefarious activities. And every time the Iranians pledge to stop producing weapons-applicable materials. However, these promises have proven to be no more than "lip service" because invariably additional clandestine activity is detected.

Even worse, the Iranians need not fear that any sanctions will be levied by the nearly impotent United Nations. This is due to the fact that China has indicated that it will veto any such sanction that may be proposed in the Security Council. Once more, The United Nations is either unwilling or unable to effectively address the crisis.

Which means that the United States will yet again have to lead the way.

Some are advocating a military solution that would involve the use of either American or Israeli air assets to destroy Iranian research facilities. This is what the Israelis did when they effectively eliminated Saddam Hussein's weapons development program with the destruction of the nuclear reactor code-named Osiraq in June 1981.

However, I would advocate a different strategy in order to pressure the Iranians to comply with various agreements aimed at the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. This particular strategy poses little or no risk to American military personnel, and almost all assets needed to do the job are already in place, or in reasonably close proximity to the theater of operations.

The tactic that might prove highly productive in bringing the mullahs to heel would be that of a classic naval blockade imposed on all merchant vessels attempting to use Iranian ports. This blockade would extend to all exports as well as the importation of non-food items.

Iran is a nation that is highly dependent upon the exportation of petroleum for revenues. Likewise, they rely upon the importation of a variety of staple items and manufactured goods. Nearly all oil exports and most imports pass through Iranian ports. Even though (in theory) manufactured goods could be smuggled across Iran's land borders, in practice the amount of goods delivered could not hope to meet their requirements.

For humanitarian reasons, shipments of foodstuffs could be allowed through the blockade, but only after thorough inspection by United States naval personnel of both the vessel and its cargo. The costs of such food shipments could be charged against an account that would be payable after the lifting of the blockade and the resumption of exports.

Certainly, the international petroleum markets would undergo a major disruption. This would be the time for us to insist that countries that are supposedly our allies temporarily increase their crude oil production in order to reduce the impact caused by the severe reduction in Iranian oil exports.

It is likely that the Iranian government would be subjected to mounting domestic pressure to lift the blockade. This pressure would be brought to bear by a population that seems to have little desire to tolerate even more deprivations due to the mullahs desire to have an atomic bomb. As the cost of manufactured (especially luxury) goods rises, (due to shortages caused by the cutting-off of imports) so too would the pressure from the populace on the regime increase. Finally, in an act of self-preservation, the regime would give-in to this pressure and comply with its obligations.

Effective naval blockades have a long record of success. Most know that the Federal blockade of southern ports helped effectively end the American Civil War. The British Navy's blockade of Germany during the first World War proved to be decisive in bringing that bloody conflict to a conclusion. And we cannot forget President Kennedy's blockade of Castro's Cuba in 1962 that helped stop the use of that island nation as a platform for the staging of nuclear-armed missiles pointed at the United States.

There are no easy solutions to the problems that are presented by Iran's refusal to meaningfully honor its commitments towards the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, if the United States fails to deter the radical Iranian theocracy in its quest to develop nuclear weapons, it will have long-ranging negative consequences to world peace. The price of any action that is contemplated will be high. The price of continued inaction would almost certainly prove disastrous.